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What Is Probate?

Probate is a court process that oversees claims and disputes regarding a person's estate when they pass away. If the deceased person had a will, probate determines if the will is valid and also makes decisions regarding the interests of his or her heirs and others who may have a financial interest in the estate. The process includes:

  • Notifying the court of a person's death.
  • An inventory and appraisal of the deceased person's property.
  • Paying the deceased person's debts and taxes.
  • Establishing the validity of the deceased's last will and testament.
  • Distributing the remainder of the deceased person's property.

Having a will does not protect your estate from probate proceedings.

Even if your will is up-to-date and secure, your loved ones and beneficiaries will still have to endure the expense and delay of the probate system. If you do not have a will, your estate will still be subject to probate. The difference is that after probate your remaining property will be distributed to your family according to the laws of your state. When an estate enters probate, the court may require the services of an “executor” or “personal representative” in addition to a “referee” appointed by the court.

Both the executor and referee may collect large fees for their services, which are paid before any proceeds from the estate are given to the deceased's beneficiaries or family. The estate may also be charged for a variety of other expenses including appraisers' fees, filing fees, and court costs. In some states court costs are actually a percentage of the deceased's net worth. The complexities, length, timing, and huge expenses of probate make it a very unpleasant process for everyone who experiences it. Fortunately, probate can usually be avoided by establishing a living trust.

Click here to learn about how we can help you create a living trust to keep your estate out of probate.

The Document People Can Help You Get Through Probate

Everyone wants to avoid probate, but if you are forced to file one, we can help you. We will prepare the initial petition to the court, the issuing of the letters, the required publishing, and the paperwork for the final distribution. We will work with you every step of the way to minimize your expenses and to make the proceedings as painless as possible. Don't start probate proceedings alone.

Contact us for additional information on how we can help you.